If you are taking any pill & also experiencing hair loss (or alopecia) and have doubt in mind that maybe your medicine is the reason. Then you are, absolutely, at the right place at right time to find out whether your medicine is to blame or something else.

Medications & Drugs causes Hair Loss

Hair loss is a condition in which both men and women suffer as a result of health-related issues, genetics and medication. In this article, we will discuss the drugs which can cause hair thinning or hair loss

Normally humans shed 100 to 150 hairs daily and number varies with age and sex. But sometimes, hair loss can also be caused by medications being taken for some other medical cause.  A lot of patients take medication for their health-related issue and few of this medication can cause hair loss. Generally, the hair loss is temporary in nature and patient recovers after 3 to 4 weeks of stoppage of drugs. These medications may disturb the growth at many stages of hair development.

Which medicines have a higher risk of inducing hair loss as a side effect?

Medicines mentioned below are at higher risk of inducing hair loss as a side effect.

Antibiotics Vitamin A Medicines Antifungals
Acne Medicines Anti-clotting Drugs Cholesterol-lowering Medicine
Anti diabetic drugs Cardiovascular drugs Anti hypertensive drugs
Oral Contraceptives Immunosuppressants Epilepsy ( anticonvulsant)
High Blood Pressure Drugs Antidepressants and mood stabilizers Chemotherapy Drugs
Gout Medication Rheumatoid Arthritis Weight loss drugs
Androgen hormones Drugs Anti thyroid hormone drugs Steroids
Psychotropic drugs Retinoids Parkinson's Drugs
Hormone Replace Therapy Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Anti microbial agents

How Hair Loss Disorder Arises due to Medication Side effects

The normal human hair growth cycle consists of 3 phases: Anagen growth phase, Catagen transactional phase, and telogen resting phase. Various drugs can affect any of these phases. Mainly two types of scalp hair loss disorders arise due to interference in the natural growth cycle.

Telogen effluvium is a term refers to a most common type of drug-induced hair disorder characterized by hair shedding or thinning. It mainly involves premature interruption of hair growth with an early entry of anagen follicles into the resting phase, leading to a noticeable increase in hair shedding 2 to 3 months later.  Although there are many other factors (like stress, childbirth,  extreme fluctuation in weight, menopause, iron, vitamin-d deficiency, exposure to toxins etc) that can be responsible for this condition, medication side-effect is on top of all. People who are taking above-mentioned medications for more than 6 months are at more risk. You may not experience full baldness or lose all hairs in this but hairs become noticeable thin. 

 Anagen effluvium refers to hair loss that occurs during the growth phase (anagen phase) of the hair cycle. It inhibits the matrix cell growth and fractures the hair shaft, which results in almost full baldness in just a few days. The extent of hair loss in Anagen Effluvium is relatively much higher than in Telogen Effluvium. In this problem, hair loss is not just limited to the scalp, but it extends to the face and body too. Medicines & drugs used in chemotherapy ( or chemo) for cancer treatment is mainly responsible for Anagen effluvium. Other medical conditions or medication responsible include pemphigus vulgaris, radiation therapy, endocrine diseases, trauma, pressure, cicatrizing disease and alopecia areta and exposure to certain chemicals like boron, arsenic or thallium.

Which medication or drug can cause hair loss?

The medications or drugs listed below can induce hair loss as a side-effect. Working of these medicines is such that they can easily trigger telogen effluvium or anagen effluvium process. Each type of medication is listed below with examples of some common brands/ drugs formulations that often report hair loss side-effect.

Antibiotics Antibiotics (or antibacterials) are designed, basically, to kill or obstruct the growth of unwanted bacteria that cause various diseases in human body. Though results produced by antibiotics are incredible but alongside, it also affects hemoglobin (the protein responsible to carry oxygen in red blood cell) and deplete Vitamin B level. Therefore, taking antibiotics for a longer period of time or high doses can, eventually, trigger hair loss.

Vitamin A MedicinesExcess of everything is bad, and the same applies to Vitamin A. Undoubtedly, Vitamin A is excellent not only for hair but also for healthy vision, skin, bones, hair, and other tissues in the body. But excessive use of Vitamin A makes hair follicle to go into overdrive. This means that more and more hairs will reach in telogen phase and will fall out. Vitamin A overdose can also cause various harmful effects on the internal body organ too.

Antifungals When taken over a long period, antifungal medicines can lead to scalp & body hair loss and nail changes. Potential medicines include:

  • Ketoconazole
  • Voriconazole

Acne Medicines Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that can easily be absorbed by the body and increase toxicity level, which is very dangerous for human organs. Acne medicines that can start your hair fall are:

  • Accutane (Isotretinoin)
  • Retin A (Tretinoin)

Anti-clotting drugs Anticlotting drugs (or anticoagulants) drugs are mainly used to treat blood clots in blood vessels as clots restrict the movement of blood inside the body. Many people experience hair fall while consuming blood clot medicines. Some of them are:

  • Panwarfin (Warfarin Sodium)
  • Sofarin (Warfarin Sodium)
  • Coimadin (Warfarin Sodium)
  • Heparin Injections

Cholesterol-lowering Medicines Cholesterol-lowering Medicines are used to remove unnecessary fat deposit in blood. In the long run, these medicines are very harmful to hairs. Cholesterol-lowering drugs which reported hair loss as side effects in the past include:

  • Simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Lipitor (Atorvastatin)
  • Atromid-S (Clofibrate)
  • Lopid (Gemfibrozil)

Anti-diabetic drugs (Hypoglycaemic agents) Metformin is commonly prescribed drug which can cause hair loss.

Cardiovascular drugs Metoprolol and Propranolol, timolol and nadolol can cause hair loss.

Anti-hypertensive drugs Captopril and Linsopril, Atenolol can cause hair loss,

Oral ContraceptivesProgesterone based contraceptive which contain levonorgestrel, norgestral and norethisterone may cause hair loss.

Immunosuppressants DrugsImmunosuppressant Drugs, also known as Immunosuppressive or anti-rejection drugs,  are used to suppress immune abilities. This drug lowers the body ability to reject newly transplant organs and also treat autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Anti-rejection drugs that can trigger hair include:

  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
  • Leflunomide (Arava)
  • Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)

Epilepsy drugs (anticonvulsants) These are drugs that come in use for the treatment of epileptic seizures. Medicines that are known to induce hair fall are:

  • Valproic (Depakote)
  • Trimethadione (Tridione)

High Blood Pressure MedicinesMedicines which are used for the treatment of high blood pressure can also induce hair loss.  Most popular are beta-blockers and ace inhibitors.

Beta-blockers that have detrimental effects on hair include:

  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Timolol (Blocadren)
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor)
  • Nadolol (Corgard)
  • Propranolol (Inderal and Inderal LA)

Ace inhibitors that can induce hair fall include:

  • Captopril (Capoten)
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)

Antidepressants and mood stabilizersAntidepressants and mood stabilizers that can cause hair loss include:

  • Tofranil (imipramine)
  • Elavil (amitruptyline)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Vivactil (protriptyline)
  • Pamelor (nortriptyline )
  • Sinequan (doxepin)
  • Surmontil (trimipramine)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Anafranil (clomipramine)
  • Norpramin (desipramine)

ChemotherapyChemotherapy treatment is widely renowned for getting hair loss as a side effect. Anagen effluvium is responsible for this kind of hair loss. Drugs used in Chemo are so highly powerful that along with cancer cells, it also damaged the healthy hair cell which results in loss of hair. The hair loss begins after 1 to 3 weeks of treatment and takes about two months to cause total hair loss. This type of hair loss is reversible. As soon as patient stopped the treatment, patient will have normal growth in two three months. Almost, all chemo drugs induce hair loss. Some of them are:

  • Cerubine (Daunorubicin)
  • VePesid (Etoposide)
  • Adriamycin (doxorubicin)
  • Taxotere (Docetaxel)
  • Cytoxan or Neosar (Cyclophosphamide)
  • Ifex (Ifosfamide)
  • Camptosar (Irinotecan)
  • Hexalen (Altretamine)
  • Ixempra (Ixabepilone)
  • Navelbine (Vinorelbine)
  • Hycamtin (Topotecan)
  • Busulfan

Gout Medication Gout is a type of arthritis condition caused by defective uric acid functions that mainly target the joints of bones. Popular gout medicines that reported hair loss in the past include:

  • Zyloprim (Allopurinol)
  • Lopurin (Allopurinol)

Rheumatoid Arthritis MedicationIt is an autoimmune disease that severely damages the joints throughout the body. In this type of arthritis, unlike simple arthritis, damage happens on both sides of the body. It means that if one side of the leg joint is affected than another side will also get damage. Medicines that treat this condition also induce hair. Some of them are:

  • Humira (Adalimumb)
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex)
  • Arava (Leflunomide)
  • Enbrel (etaercept)

Weight loss drugs Phentramine can cause hair loss

Androgen hormones Dehydroepiandrosterone is commonly used steroid can cause hair loss

Anti-thyroid hormone drugs: Eltroxin can cause hair loss.

Steroids Steroids, these days, have gained a huge popularity. These are complexly structured medicines that generally consist of artificial hormones, alkaloids, and vitamins. There are lots of risks associated with steroids and one such is hair loss.  Common steroids that induced hair loss include:

  • Anadrol
  • Anavar
  • Masteron
  • Trenbolone
  • Winstrol
  • Testosterone & Estrogen based
  • Most anabolic Steroids

Psychotropic drugs Lithium and Sodium Valporate is commonly prescribed as mood stabilizer. Lithium is known to cause hair loss. Fluoxetine is an antidepressant which can cause hair loss.

Retinoids Drugs such as isotretinoin, and tretinoin. They are used in anti-acne (pimples) treatment. When used in high doses can cause hair loss.

Anti-microbial agentsIsoniazide is used in treatment of Tuberculosis can cause hair loss. The antibiotics if taken for long term can deplete the vitamin b and haemoglobin from blood and can disrupt the hair growth.

Other medications that can trigger hair loss include Hormones Replacement Therapy,  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and Parkinson’s drugs

Takeaway Advice

I hope, by now, you have come to know about the medicines and hair loss relationship.

Nearly all, drug-induced hair loss is reversible. Upon cessation of the blamed drug, you will start getting your hairs back in 2-3 months. So, there is nothing to worry at all.

If not possible to quit medicine, then please discuss your hair loss with your doctor. He may advise you with any other medication or can alter the dose of existing.

Never skip, delay, alter or overdose the medication prescribed by your doctor. Sometimes, these mere changes can also result in falling of hairs.

Unhygienic & poor diet and inadequate sleep can also trigger hair loss during medication. So, it is advised to take care about it too.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Question)

Q1. Can all medicines accelerate hair loss as a side effect?

Definitely, No. It is not compulsory that every medicine accelerate hair loss as a side-effect.  Every new drug has to pass through a rigorous testing & uncountable clinical trials during its development time period before coming into use of the general public.  This whole journey of a drug is conducted just to understand its efficacy and side effects. Although most medicines are developed to cure a variety of health conditions, sometimes they can have undesired side effects. In comparison to benefits, the probability of having side-effects is too low.

Q2. Is hair loss by medications a permanent condition?

Not at all. Most of the time such hair fall condition is temporary and reversible as well. However, sometimes like pattern baldness, is permanent. A temporary condition can be reversed anytime by following some simple measures mentioned below in the end whereas permanent hair loss has only one solution, that is hair transplant.

Q3. Does everyone who takes these medicines suffer hair loss?

Never ever. Every human body is different, thus the side-effects. It is not compulsory that one will 100% suffer hair loss from these drugs. People who are taking these medications from long time or people who alter the dose (low or high) themselves without doctor’s prescription are at more risk of any side-effect. Only chemotherapy drugs induce hair fall in most people. For rest, the probability is very low.

Q4. Why Certain Medicines affects hair?

We often overlook the written drug's warnings and underestimate the possible side effects of medicines. It is very important to know that almost every medicine has some side-effects (mild or severe) and hair loss is one of the common side-effects of certain medications. Apart from it, one can also experience excess hair growth (both on head and body parts) and changes in hair color or texture. Both men and women can experience hair loss or hair thinning as a side-effect of certain medications and health-related issues. 


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